London: Archaeologists have started searching for the remains of famous Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes whose 'Don Quixote' is considered to be the first modern novel and regarded one of the best works of fiction.

The remains of the author, whose influence on the Spanish language has been so great that the language is often called ‘la lengua de Cervantes’ (the language of Cervantes), are believed to lie somewhere within a convent in Madrid.

The project will allow the experts to reconstruct the face of a man only known from a picture painted by artist Juan de Jauregui some 20 years after his death, and help unlock
clues as to how Cervantes died, a English daily reported.

Cervantes is believed to have died of cirrhosis and was accused by rivals of being a notorious tippler who drank himself into the grave.

"They may not just help us to discover what he looked like, but also why he died. It is said that he was very ill late in life, but that is also when he was very productive as an author," said Fernando Prado, who is leading the project.

According to the experts, the author's bones should be easy to identify as they would bear the marks of wounds suffered during the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571. Cervantes received wounds to his chest and arms during a battle that saw a Spanish-led fleet defeat their Ottoman enemies in the Gulf of Patras off western Greece.

"He received a blast from a harquebus in the chest and another wound that left him unable to use one hand. Those two things will have left some imprint on his bones," Prado said.

Cervantes was buried in the convent after dying at his home nearby in 1616, just 10 days before that of William Shakespeare. His bones went missing in 1673 when building work
was done at the convent. They are known to have been taken to a different convent and returned later.

(Agencies)